Meredith Blake is a staff reporter at the Los Angeles Times, and has written television criticism for the AV Club, among other publications.
Meredith’s top 5 (in no particular order):
“Mad Men” (AMC)
“30 Rock” (NBC)
“Breaking Bad” (AMC)
“Parks and Recreation” (NBC)
1. What was the show of the year? I won’t win any points for originality with this one, but it seems like the only possible answer to this question is “Homeland.” Yes, the second season has had some fairly enormous plausibility issues and has been mired by overly schematic plotting (Dana hit-and-run story line, I’m talking to you!) but when Barack and Bill are binge-watching your show, clearly you’re on to something.
2. What was the best scene? This season of “Mad Men” was far from my favorite, but what it lacked in terms of season-long narrative momentum and subtlety it almost made up for with some fantastically memorable set pieces, like Megan’s awkwardly sexy “Zou Bisou Bisou” and — my pick for scene of the year — Roger Sterling’s LSD trip. We all knew someone on “Mad Men” was going to drop acid at some point, yet somehow Roger’s experiment still came as a surprise. The show took what could easily have been another dreadful ’60s cliché and portrayed it in a way that was funny, menacing, poignant and visually inventive.
3. Best performance of the year? Stephen Colbert as “Stephen Colbert.” Is there anyone else working in TV today, except for a handful of soap opera stars, who spends as much time in character in front of the cameras as Stephen Colbert? For this feat alone, he deserves some kind of award, but this year Colbert took the performance to the next level, hitting the election trail and in the process teaching more Americans about campaign finance than just about anyone. I wish the Emmys would come up with a special category to honor his work (“best performance by a fake pundit on a real talk show,” maybe?).
4. What was the funniest joke or line? Maybe I am cheating by calling this a “joke,” but I don’t think I laughed harder this year than in the doll scene from the season finale of “Louie.” It was all the things “Louie” is — dark, funny, absurd, sweet.
5. Which series best evoked life in 2012? This one really stumped me, but I’m going to have to go with “The Good Wife,” which is easily the timeliest show on network television — and not just because it’s explicitly about politics. In less obvious ways, “The Good Wife” is also about many other decidedly now issues, from the role of technology in family life, to the ever-present hunger for new scandal, to the “Can women really have it all?” debate. Network television is a tough place for dramas to be these days, but “The Good Wife” might actually benefit from its procedural format, which allows its writers to explore a wide array of subjects and to revel in its own wonkiness.
6. And personality of the year goes to … Alana “Honey Boo Boo” Thompson. Sorry, but it’s true.
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